Policy workers are employed in a wide variety of settings in the public, private and voluntary sectors to provide research and information in support of their remit, and synthesise this in a manner that is understandable to policymakers.
Policy officers are employed by the government and local authorities, they also analyse the work of government for campaign groups, help to devise media campaigns for public affairs consultancies or carry out research and write briefing papers for MPs/MSPs. Many officers specialise in particular areas of interest, such as social policy and others may work as lobbyists on behalf of businesses or charities.
Graduates interested in pursuing a career in policy work need to have an in-depth understanding of multi-level democracy and public policy in the UK, or further afield, and how public policy is formulated.
Many graduates entering this field will have a first degree or postgraduate qualification in a relevant subject area, such as politics, social policy or policy studies, but work experience is very important.
Your future in...
Information and advice on policy work specifically for University of Edinburgh students and graduates.
Follow the links below for examples of job profiles in policy work:
We may have Edinburgh Alumni contacts who can give you some useful advice about getting into this type of work. Access Connect.ed via the Careers tab in your MyEd portal to search for contacts by employer, job title, location and school (UG and PG)
Policy Work Job Study - You can find out more about the work, who the employers are, how to get into the field etc., by reading the latest feedback from policy work professionals on MyCareerHub Resources.
Twitter List: Policy Work - Are you on Twitter? Look at our Twitter List for Policy Work to receive updates on news, vacancies and advice from relevant professional bodies, employers and useful organisations. Please note the Careers Service cannot accept responsibility for the content of external sites.
National Institute for Research Advancement (NIRA ) - website contains a national database of think tanks.
Policy Exchange - a leading UK think tank. An educational charity developing and promoting new policy ideas with the aim of delivering better public services, a stronger society and a more dynamic economy.
The Buchanan Institute - Edinburgh's first and Scotland's only student led think tank. Provides opportunities for students to get involved in researching and writing policy proposals.
The Centre for Scottish Public Policy - an independent think-tank that aims to promote the development of public policy in Scotland by providing new ways of thinking for political institutions. Students and graduates pursuing a career in this sector can get help with CVs and covering letters, and through the new online mentoring tool. The CSPP run the highly successful, government-funded, Adopt an Intern initiative. Vacancies are advertised on the website.
Reform Scotland - an independent public policy 'think tank', aiming to inform and influence the public policy debate in Scotland by researching and publishing reports and papers, issuing briefing notes and regular updates, arranging seminars, lectures and other public events. Website also has a lot of very useful links to other think tanks, political and media sources.
Scotland's Futures Forum - an increasingly important organisation, helping to promote new ideas and stimulate public policy debate.
Atlantic-community.org - online foreign policy think tank focusing on transatlantic relations. Offers opportunities to have work published, and advertises internships and vacancies.
European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research - an intergovernmental organisation, affiliated to the United Nations, which specializes in the study of all areas of social welfare policy within Europe. The website provides information about the centre, its staffing structure and current areas of research, as well as a range of publications and policy briefs.
Chatham House - Royal Institute of International Affairs - a non-profit, non-governmental organisation based in London whose mission is to analyse and promote the understanding of major international issues and current affairs.
Confederation of British Industry (CBI) - the top business lobbying organisation in the UK on national and international issues. They work with the UK government, international legislators and policy-makers to help UK businesses compete effectively.
Public Affairs Links - comprehensive website for careers in lobbying. Includes a directory of public affairs firms, profiles of major industry players in each country, industry news, events and training courses, as well as a jobs board with daily updates of new graduate and internship positions.
Public Affairs Network - provides information about lobbying (as well as other aspects of policy work), careers advice, and job vacancy adverts from a diverse range of organisations.
The Resource Centre has a comprehensive directory of lobbying and public affairs, with links to information including listings of UK public affairs consultancies, experts on European Affairs and freelance consultants. It also contains information about recruitment consultancies, training course providers and think tanks, together with details of monitoring services, information providers, polling and research services.
UK Directory - provides links to many UK pressure and lobbying groups.
UK Parliament - provides some useful information about what lobbying is and how it is done.
Goodmoves - the premier careers hub for the charity and voluntary sector with an extensive searchable database of vacancies. Register to receive job alerts by email. Goodmoves is also piloting a new service, First Move, to help students and recent graduates find suitable work placements in the sector.
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) - the national body representing the voluntary sector in Scotland. It is a major organiser of training courses, and provides information and advice about working in the sector and links to job adverts.
Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) - co-ordinates, develops and articulates the views and policies of the trade union movement in Scotland. Advertise vacancies for affiliated unions as well as STUC positions.
Trades Union Congress (TUC) - as well as in national newspapers, unions advertise vacancies on their websites. Links to all the affiliated unions can be found on the TUC website.
Edinburgh University Students' Association (SA) - active involvement in student union activities (as well as in the workplace) while at university is good grounding for applying for policy work in this sector.
Political parties and MPs
MSP Jobs - advertises a wide range of jobs working for Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), either at Holyrood or in a local office.
Working for an MP (w4mp) - advertises jobs to work with individual MPs, but also for political parties and charities. Includes voluntary opportunities for work experience.
Local Government Association (LGA) - the LGA is a voluntary lobbying organisation, acting as the voice of the local government sector and representing all LAs in England and Wales. Vacancies are advertised on the website.
Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) - is the representative voice of Scottish local government and also acts as the employers’ association on behalf of all Scottish councils. Part of COSLA's remit is to influence the formulation of policies to ensure their implementation delivers on local priorities and policies.
The site has a link to myjobscotland, the recruitment portal advertising local government jobs across all Scottish LAs. Register to receive job alerts by email.
Public policy consultancies
Blake Stevenson - offers research and consultancy in social and economic development including: social inclusion; access to opportunities; lifelong learning; work and life balance, and more. The website has a careers section and vacancies.
KPMG - a large organisation involved in public policy consultancy. They work with central government, local authorities, housing associations, police authorities, the NHS, colleges, and more to help deliver major change, improve performance and drive financial efficiency. A major graduate recruiter, the website has a very good careers section.
Rocket Science - a consultancy committed to improving the quality of life of disadvantaged individuals, groups and communities, which works with public, private and third sector clients.
They specialise in the areas of employability, learning and skills, social inclusion, economic development and regeneration, youth issues and funding solutions. Vacancies are advertised on the website.
SQW - an independent consultancy in sustainable economic and social development. The recruitment section of the website offers careers advice and lists vacancies.
Tribal - work with over 2,500 public sector organisations, providing a range of management consulting and professional support services. The website has a careers and vacancies section.
Political strategy consultancies
APCO Worldwide - UK - an international award-winning integrated communications consultancy. The team of consultants are drawn from media, business, political, and NGO backgrounds. Very informative website with a careers section. Offer internships.
Citigate Dewe Rogerson (CDR) - an international award-winning consultancy offering many client services, including a specialist public policy division. An informative website, also provides details of a designated career contact.
Grayling - a global organisation with offices throughout the UK, including Edinburgh, Grayling is one of Scotland's leading public affairs consultancies, working with clients from the public, private and voluntary sectors across a wide range of areas. The website has a careers section.
Greenhaus - operating only in Scotland, they employ only experienced and expert consultants.
Weber Shandwick - a global public relations and communications leader, with a global network of public relations practitioners and a client roster including many of the world's most recognised brands. They provide a wide range of services. The website has a careers section and they offer internships.
PR Companies do similar work to consultancies, although they tend to have a different approach. Experience in a PR agency can be a good starting point for moving into political consultancy. One such company, which has won awards for public affairs campaigns and lobbying is:
Pagoda PR - an independent Scottish public relations consultancy offering a full range of services including: public affairs, community engagement, strategy development, research and evaluation. They have serviced campaigns to build political and public support for complex issues, community engagement and awareness raising programmes using print, broadcast and on-line media.
News Agencies can provide good grounding in the research and monitoring side of political strategy work, and a good test of whether you will enjoy these aspects of the work. For example:
News Direct - based in Edinburgh, this agency provides comprehensive public affairs support to clients by monitoring and reporting on parliamentary activities and delivering political awareness training. They also offer clients campaign, project and research support, and funnel parliamentary news relevant to clients and provide them with the skills to navigate the parliamentary system.
Careers in International Relations - Information from the University of Kent useful for those interested in policy work with an international dimension.
Employers - a useful list from Edinburgh University Graduate School of Social and Political Science of employers where graduates of International and European Politics courses have found work.
Atlantic-community.org - online foreign policy think tank focusing on transatlantic relations. Offers opportunities for students to have their work published and their ideas debated by the international policy community, and advertises internships and vacancies. Members also have access to special events and policy workshop competitions.
NB vacancies may also be listed in many of the sites above.
MyCareerHub is exclusively for current students and graduates of the University of Edinburgh. It can be used to:
- search for jobs and events, such as recruitment fairs
- find out about employers
The LGA Group jobs site providing information on working within local government organisations and advertising vacancies. Register to receive job alerts by email.
Myjobscotland - recruitment portal advertising local government jobs across all Scottish LAs. Register to receive job alerts by email.
Policy Jobs - the latest research and policymaking jobs from around the world.
Trovit Jobs - a leading search engine providing links to job adverts published in hundreds of classified websites. Register for personal alerts by email or RSS.